Installing Stadium Wraps - Getting it right the first time.
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Installing Stadium Wraps - Getting it right the first time.

Are you ready to learn how to get creative in overcoming the challenges of installing vinyl in stadium settings? Read on for how-tos and solutions that will help you along the way.

By Jennifer LeClaire

Thereís plenty of opportunity in wrapping stadiums in vinyl ≠ if you understand the ins and outs. Find out what you need to know to tap into this opportunity.

Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

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  • Wrapping stadium walls, poles, beams, concession and retail areas ≠ and whatever else needs wrapping ≠ is becoming a lucrative opportunity for sign makers. But let the vinyl wrapper beware: working in stadiums is a totally different animal than working with cars, boats, RVs and other substrates.

    The primary difference is the substrate itself. Most of the square footage youíll encounter in stadium wraps is concrete block rather than hard cold steal. There are also some interesting pitfalls you could get stuck in.

    While much of the ins and outs of stadium wrapping comes with experience, that doesnít mean it has to be your experience. Read on to learn from the experience of others so you donít make the same mistakes they did ≠ and so that you can benefit from their creative solutions to interesting challenges.

    Preparing the Surface
    The first step in any vinyl installation is preparing the surface. Itís a little different with stadiums, though. Pre-cast concrete material can have an oily surface. You might also discover the concrete is speckled with dust because of the production process. It should go without saying that both oil and dust inhibit good adhesion.

    You can remedy the issue by using some TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) and water according to the manufacturerís instructions, or use 3M All Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser. (Be sure to dilute it as recommended.)

    Hereís what you need to do: Scrub the surface with a brush, then vacuum the concrete with a wet-dry vacuum, and allow it to dry until it both looks and feels dry to the touch. Gary Lucke, owner of Fast Signs in St. Petersburg, Fla. admits he hasnít always followed this entire process ≠ but he has good reasons. Will it come back to haunt him? He hopes not, but itís too soon to tell. Hereís his reasoning:

    ďItís a little hard to fit a power-washer in a sports team store. There are so many beams going across,Ē he explains. ďPlus moisture and water is the enemy. So we typically have to wipe the walls down and brush them off. These walls are so big; it just takes time to go over them even with a brush or a broom.Ē

    Getting heated up for the job
    Again, before you do your application, 3M recommends you perform a test in an inconspicuous place on each type of substrate you plan to use for each of the larger graphics. Once youíve done this and are satisfied with the results, then you have a green light to move forward with your stadium wrap. Better to waste one panel of vinyl than several panels, right?

    When you are ready with all your tools, grab your heat gun and set it to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (or 537 degrees Celsius). Work at a speed that allows the film to be heated enough to make it conformable. Overheating damages the film; under-heating does not permit conformability.

    Be sure to wear a heat-resistant glove on the hand that holds the applicator tool, whether itís a TSA-1, TSA-3 or CMP-1. If you are using the TSA-1 or TSA-3 roller, 3M recommends that you hold the heat gun about one inch above and immediately in front of the roller.

    ďYou hold the heat gun and apply the heat about an inch or so away from the vinyl, so it almost heats up to the point where it bubbles,Ē says Lucke says. ďThat heats it up enough to really conform to all of the texture you are putting it on as you move across it.Ē

    From corner to corner and side to side
    Now, start at an outside top corner and work straight across to the other side using this technique: Heat the film directly in front of the roller for about one second and then begin following closely with the roller, pushing firmly. Move at a slow, steady pace.

    ďThe downsides are you have to go fairly slow. Itís not like other wraps. Whenever we do other wrap stuff, we just fly. We just go back and forth with soft squeegees you can just step down in a hurry. But with this stuff you have to go slower and you have to use the right tools. If you go too slowly you will burn the vinyl. If you go to fast you donít get the conformity,Ē Lucke says.

    Now, roll all the way to the edge. Then move the roller down about two inches and repeat the process until the film is fully applied. Itís noteworthy to point out that the one-inch width of the TSA-3 roller will prevent you from moving down two inches at a time. So just take your time.

    If you are using the CMP-1 pad, youíll take a bit of a different approach, although the same basic theory applies. First, heat the film for about one second and immediately press the film firmly with the CMP-1 pad for about another second to conform the film around the texture.

    Now, move to the next section of film about half the width of the pad. Heat the film and press firmly with the pad. Continue with this procedure across the width of the film and then start a new row, working in this manner until the film is fully applied.

    Do the next pass across the film by moving down about half the width of the pad. Repeat that process until the film is fully applied. If the film lifts immediately, that probably means you didnít apply it correctly. But it could also mean the texture is too severe for the film. Do not attempt to go over the vinyl again because you wonít get good results. Youíll have to use a new sheet of vinyl.

    If possible, leave the film in place for one week, and then check for good adhesion and acceptable removal before moving ahead with the entire job. After all, stadium installations are large by nature, and you donít want to have to do the work twice. Itís also noteworthy to point out that film 8620 ES typically shows more lifting than film 8624 ES.

    3Mís tips for successful textured wall applications
    On textured surfaces, the film and adhesive must conform to irregular high and low spots, which often includes mortar joints. 3Mís 8264 film is designed to be effective on many of the most common moderate textures found in public stadiums, arenas and similar environments.

    However, due to the wide variation in substrate texture, you should verify that the film is suitable for each of your applications. That said, here are some tips from 3M to help you get the best possible application in a stadium setting.

    1. Test each different textured surface you are considering at each location.

    2. Film is more susceptible to lifting from deep or undercut mortar joints than shallow ones (about 1/8Ē deep). So keep that in mind during the application process and avoid those areas if possible.

    3. In most cases, minor lifting does not detract from the impact of your customerís message, nor from the overall durability of the graphic. Edge lifting, which is usually most noticeable at mortar joints, may be susceptible to picking and tearing if the graphic is at pedestrian level and within reach.

    4. Avoid extremes in temperatures. Freeze/thaw cycles that trap moisture behind graphics can cause lifting. Water may accumulate behind graphics applied to unsealed substrates, resulting in water bubbles that cause lifting. Intense direct sunlight may cause lifting.

    Stay tuned for more articles on stadium vinyl installations.

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